Karla Walker Attorney at Law
The tough economic times have certainly taken a toll on the job market. It is not just those that are looking for jobs, but it has greatly affected those that are trying to keep working. Yes there are many lay offs and cutbacks at companies, butthis is not the effect that this blog will address. The effect for many employees has been a change in the work environment.
There is an attitude that permeates many companies today and that is supervisors or managers that treat employees as if they are easily replaced if they do not march to the drum beat of the manager. Many employees find themselves subjected to the constant threat that there are 50 more people that want your job.
This has created a number of unjustified terminations and/ or suspensions. I have seen an increase in the number of people that come to the office for a consultation on the issue of “wrongful termination” The trick is that from a pure
laymans perspective many of the parties that come to the office have been”wrongfully terminated. In Georgia, the legal perspective is that they do not have an action for a
Georgia is an “employment at will” state. It is just as it sounds—You are employed at the will of your employer. You can be terminated for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. If the employee is not represented by a union or has an internal grievance procedure, there is not much to offer to an employee in this state. The termination alone will not create grounds for a lawsuit.
What if I have no disciplinary history? What if my company has steps of discipline that I was not offered before I was terminated? What if my boss just does not like me? What if my boss is just giving me a hard time and treats me with disrespect? Unfortunately in Georgia, the response is still the same. Public employees are an exception ,but look to the official code to determine if youare within the definition of a “public employee”
If you have a contract of employment, you may have the protections provided by contract law or any other causes that arise from the contract. A contract for employment is governed by a specific time period. For example, a contract that hires you for a year. Be careful here because there are some employers that provide a contract, but put in the contract that it is an “employment at will” relationship.
The Federal laws may provide recourse if you are in a protected class. Your employer CANNOT discriminate against you based on race, age, gender, religion, disability, pregnancy and/ or national origin. An employer cannot retaliate against you for alleging or charging that you have been discriminated against. If a party thinks this is an issue, a charge must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) within 180 days of the occurrence. There are some exceptions to the time to file with state employees. You must file with the EEOC as it is a statutory requirement. Check out www.eeoc.gov to review the process and applicable statutes. If at any point an employee thinks that an employer is discriminating or a pattern of unfair treatment has occurred, keep a diary of events. Documentation with names, dates and description are extremely valuable to your attorney. In addition, familiarize yourself with the procedure in your employee handbook. It is important that you follow any steps for reporting as soon as you are aware of the potential discrimination. It will harm your case if you failed to follow the procedure for reporting this activity.
Every employer does not have a procedure. Those that do will invariably use it against you in their defense for the employer. Consult an employment attorney as soon as possible.
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